October 7, 2013 | Quote
Iran Sanctions Tussle
This week it became evident once again that when it comes to Iran sanctions, the Obama administration would rather Congress do as little as possible. We have seen this again and again as sanctions legislation originates in Congress and then the administration steps in to slow it down. As we head into a critical meeting with the Iranians, the administration is at it again.
At the State Department briefing, the press voiced a certain incredulity that the administration would be trying to reject additional bargaining power:
QUESTION: Okay. And then one other thing: [Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman] was explicit in telling the senators that the administration thinks it would be helpful if they held off on additional sanctions over the next — less than two weeks now. And as I’m sure you noted, Chairman [Sen. Robert] Menendez [D-N.J.], in his opening statement, said, some of us are working on new sanctions that would lead to further reductions in purchases of Iranian petroleum. And the administration is now being criticized by a number of Republicans for suggesting a slowdown in movement towards new sanctions, including Chairman [Rep. Edward R.] Royce [R-Calif.], Senator [Mark] Kirk [D-Ill.]. Why is it when you yourselves believe, as you just said, that the only reason the Iranians are at the negotiating table is the sanctions, why is it necessary, or why is it advisable for the Senate to slow its movement on additional sanctions?
A former U.S. official who has been highly critical of this administration e-mailed, “It shows they don’t know how to negotiate. They don’t seem to understand negotiating from strength.” He then expressed a widely held sentiment on Capitol Hill: “It’s a show of fundamental incompetence.”
Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, expressed a similar view. He told me, “It should be obvious that Iran’s rulers will agree to curb their nuclear weapons program only if they are convinced that not doing so could be hazardous to their health. That suggests that we need to make it clear that unless the centrifuges stop spinning, sanctions will be enhanced —and Iran’s economy may be pushed to the point of collapse.” In a new report, the FDD suggests a list of nine additional sanctions, which, May said, “accelerate an Iranian balance of payments crisis and put pressure on Iran’s foreign exchange reserves — and perhaps alter the calculation of Iran’s decision-makers.”